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Pubic Enemies


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#1 Andy Karkut

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 12:56 AM

I would love to have our very knowledgeable peers comment on the trailer of Mann's Public Enemies. Shot on the F23.

The final judgment of the cinematography will be the film itself itself, but this trailer does not inspire confidence. And to think it is a period piece!

Thoughts?

http://www.apple.com...blicenemies/hd/
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 01:39 AM

Yeah, that's really patchy, isn't it.

I don't think the focus problems are really noticeably worse than any other quicktime HD movie trailer. These trailers are probably, in part at least, at least as sharp as a lot of theatrical projection. Those of us who are watching them pixel for pixel on 24" TFTs will probably never see it sharper. Add to this the fact that 2/3" HD is notoriously tough on focus pullers, and I think it's no worse than a lot of stuff.

It's smeary, because people have decided that very wide shutter angles are OK. Every time I see this used, as here, I dislike it more, and yes that does mean I'm second-guessing Dante Spinotti - albeit on a matter of taste. It smacks of film people who haven't adequately considered the problems associated with the technique and it looks like a daytime sitcom. It's particularly rancorous in shots with a lot of motion, where it doesn't particularly increase exposure at any one point so much as simply make the blurs longer. It isn't an effective way of increasig exposure in material such as that shot from a moving car. Before anyone jumps on me, I don't accept that any but a tiny proportion of the smeariness in this is due to compression - it doesn't look the same.

The nastiest shot is at about 31 seconds, which has just about every possible HD malady you could possibly imagine. It's soft, smeary, and has elevated black levels, presumably as a result of such heavy backlight causing the lens to veil. That plus the chaotic camera move and poor highlight control combine to make it look like a student film. I'd like to blame the grade but I don't think this was ever really salvageable. The blur is so long it's visibly segmented under discontinuous illumination.

As you may be able to tell, I'm not a terribly big fan of this movie, and I've only seen two minutes and twenty-nine seconds of footage.

P
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#3 Andy Karkut

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 01:46 AM

That's a good dissection of the trailer, Phil. Daytime sitcom, ha ha, that is a such an apt description of the look of the trailer!

Just so I understand this, when you refer to the "wide shutter angles" are you implying that Spinotti went 'no-shutter' to gain more light? Am I also correct in assuming that this decision increases motion trails?

Would anyone care to comment on the choice of F23 over other 2/3" cameras such as the Viper or Genesis?
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#4 Jaron Berman

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 03:35 AM

Would anyone care to comment on the choice of F23 over other 2/3" cameras such as the Viper or Genesis?


Genesis is not a 2/3" camera. Also, Sony has been quietly buying every last Viper in exchange for a good deal on a brand new F23s meaning vipers are hard to come by. That plus the fact that Vipers are notoriously fussy cameras, whereas F23s just basically work.

As for "why 2/3" HD?" That's a great question, but probably one for the filmmakers themselves.
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#5 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:08 PM

It's smeary, because people have decided that very wide shutter angles are OK. Every time I see this used, as here, I dislike it more, and yes that does mean I'm second-guessing Dante Spinotti - albeit on a matter of taste. It smacks of film people who haven't adequately considered the problems associated with the technique and it looks like a daytime sitcom. It's particularly rancorous in shots with a lot of motion, where it doesn't particularly increase exposure at any one point so much as simply make the blurs longer. It isn't an effective way of increasig exposure in material such as that shot from a moving car. Before anyone jumps on me, I don't accept that any but a tiny proportion of the smeariness in this is due to compression - it doesn't look the same.

The nastiest shot is at about 31 seconds, which has just about every possible HD malady you could possibly imagine. It's soft, smeary, and has elevated black levels, presumably as a result of such heavy backlight causing the lens to veil. That plus the chaotic camera move and poor highlight control combine to make it look like a student film. I'd like to blame the grade but I don't think this was ever really salvageable. The blur is so long it's visibly segmented under discontinuous illumination.

(Pontefract Film Critic stamps his Hush Puppies, wincing in pain, as he has recently had to have them re-soled after attending a particularly boisterous West Yorkshire Arts Council meeting)
"Mr Rhodes! You simply do not understand about creative choices.
"Once you have made the correct creative choice, perceived image quality is completely independent of what might be desired or expected of unwashed and ignorant moviegoers, Philistinic distributors or relevancy-challenged financiers! Creative choices, creative choices, CREATIVE CHOICES!!
"This has been unequivocally established by years of discussion on Internet Blogs, countless self-published Internet pages of press releases by third rate-producers who most of the general public have never heard of (or seen their films), and vast, vast amounts of testimony from talentless non-entities who absolutely know, know I tell you, that the only thing separating them from making another Plan 9 From Outer Space is the Great 1920/2Kp Image Quality Conspiracy specifically engineered by geriatric anal-retentive Chief Engineers and technically Bombastic Post Production chappies, terrified of digital-savvy upstarts like them."
(Sighs noisily)
"What more evidence do you need?!!"

Sorry, it seems every time anybody dares to suggest it's possible that a "name" producer straying outside his area of expertise, might might have not been entirely au fait with the technicalities of what he was doing, some wanker will immediately post another explanation-for-everything Haiku such as:
"Creative Choice!"
"Algorithms!"
"The Look he Wanted!"
etc, etc.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:23 PM

Add to this the fact that 2/3" HD is notoriously tough on focus pullers, ....


Hmmmm -- Our nighttime sitcoms went from 35mm film to 2/3" HD, and it's actually been much easier on the focus pullers. With four cameras shooting takes that are 8 minutes long and loads of marks and dolly moves, sitcoms are about the toughest focus pulling job there is. The extra DOF of 2/3" helps a lot. In the old days, it was just the low resolution of NTSC that kept you from seeing that focus wasn't on the actress, it was on the fridge behind her. That stuff has been showing up in re-telecine to HD.




-- J.S.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:37 PM

I think any cinematographer, from a film or video background, is well aware that longer shutter speeds equal more motion blur, and yes, more exposure. You're not getting more blur but not more exposure by increasing exposure time, you get both.

This is Photography 101 here.

As for the aesthetic appeal to it, well, that's somewhat an issue of taste -- I've talked to some cinematographers who prefer 1/32nd over 1/48th for 24P photography, they feel it takes the choppiness out of the motion and I've talked to some who feel it is a minimal compromise in order to gain a 1/2-stop more exposure. For me, it just depends on how much motion there is going to be in the frame (people sitting in a dark restaurant and talking, for example, will probably give you more leeway in picking a shutter speed) and whether the alternative choices are worse -- whether it's worse to boost the light levels (or impossible) or worse to boost the gain, or worse to open the lens up all the way, etc.

I've done some lovely nighttime driving stuff in urban environments with a 1/32nd shutter and a +3db gain boost for a total one-stop more exposure and the results are very natural-looking in terms of the amount of ambient light is captured. I would say, in that case, that the downsides of more blur and noise are offset by the ability to capture the natural light -- plus I couldn't have lit blocks and blocks of city street anyway.

It's funny because when I've talked to camera assistants, they are split whether a 1/2-stop boost using the gain looks worse than using the shutter -- some find noise more objectionable than smear, some the other way around.

I'm sure Michael Mann is well aware after all these years of the effect that the longer exposure times is having on motion blur. Same goes for Spinotti -- this is not his first HD movie. It's not due to some sort of ignorance on their part as to the effect it will have -- they can see it clearly! It's not some surprise that pops up in post later.
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#8 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 10:34 PM

Yeah, it's clearly something done very intentionally. I'm going to hold back on criticizing it as a creative choice until I've seen it; it could very well compliment the narrative excellently. However, I do think it looks more reminiscent of consumer cameras than anything else, which gives the whole thing the appearance of being a student film with really good production design. Which, again, may well be the point; it could be intended to look like home videos shot in the 30s.

Just on a personal level, though, I'm really turned off by the look of it. I understand that Mann has been trying to use digital to achieve new visual aesthetics, which I think is great, but what bothers me is that this isn't really a new look; it really does just look like it was shot on a $200 palmcorder. In addition, I'm afraid that people will use this film to justify making others that look like it. I admit that I don't really have any sort of objective complaint against this; it's just my personal sense of aesthetics.
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 06:50 AM

Our nighttime sitcoms went from 35mm film to 2/3" HD, and it's actually been much easier on the focus pullers.


I've had at least two separate people say to me, with regard to Viper, "crikey, this is actually as hard as good 35mm."

We concluded that it was the lack of grain, the poor viewfinding, and the tighter circle of confusion, which made a theoretically easier situation surpridingly demanding. I dunno, maybe I just work with crap focus pullers.

P
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 08:34 AM

We concluded that it was the lack of grain, the poor viewfinding, and the tighter circle of confusion, which made a theoretically easier situation surpridingly demanding. I dunno, maybe I just work with crap focus pullers.


IDK Phil. There tends to be so much done stylistically with 2/3" HD to try to make it look like 35mm (i.e. shooting wide open) that there's really no objective real-world comparison.
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#11 Thom Stitt

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 07:02 AM

Did anyone else have Miami Vice flashbacks when viewing this trailer?

That was a wildly uneven movie visually. There were scenes that had such an intense video look that I just completely lost all immersion. I'm seeing some similar shots in this trailer. It stands out even more being a period story with huge setpieces. I don't know. I'll definitely be seeing this movie, but to be completely honest I did cringe a bit when I saw the trailer.
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#12 Tom Hall

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 02:21 AM

Is it just me or is this footage not colour graded at all?

I mean the smoke and flare colour in some shots is absolutely awful. And the orange/red cast in the blurry interior scenes is embarrassing. I can't see, regardless of any aesthetic choices, how Mann can think this looks good.
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#13 Simon Wyss

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 06:46 AM

Far from the topic but close to the title: I'm so amused by Ā«Pubic EnemiesĀ».
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:55 AM

I can't see, regardless of any aesthetic choices, how Mann can think this looks good.


Me either, though I'm sure some smart guy would say "yes, but he mans $x a second out of this stuff", as if that makes up for it.

P
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#15 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 03:49 PM

Is it just me or is this footage not colour graded at all?

I mean the smoke and flare colour in some shots is absolutely awful. And the orange/red cast in the blurry interior scenes is embarrassing. I can't see, regardless of any aesthetic choices, how Mann can think this looks good.


I wonder if he wants it to look good - looks like a very firm handed style choice to me.

Personally I'm not to conformable with a period-film being shot with such a blatant 'digital' look about it but its certainly an original way to go about it.
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#16 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 04:22 PM

but its certainly an original way to go about it.


HEAR HEAR!

I don't what you guy's are filming these day's but i would have loved to have been involved in a film like this!

Looks like a hit to me!

Kieran.
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#17 Chris Keth

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 01:04 AM

Hmmmm -- Our nighttime sitcoms went from 35mm film to 2/3" HD, and it's actually been much easier on the focus pullers. With four cameras shooting takes that are 8 minutes long and loads of marks and dolly moves, sitcoms are about the toughest focus pulling job there is. The extra DOF of 2/3" helps a lot. In the old days, it was just the low resolution of NTSC that kept you from seeing that focus wasn't on the actress, it was on the fridge behind her. That stuff has been showing up in re-telecine to HD.


-- J.S.


Having done a good bit of 2/3" focus pulling as well as 35mm and 35mm size HD, I tend to agree with the things John's posted about pulling focus for 2/3" HD as opposed to 35mm (and other similar sensor sizes). The extra depth of field is quite apparent.

One difference that does seem to make it a bit tricky sometimes is the high sharpness of HD formats. The focus seems to drop of very, very fast so while you do have more depth of field you also have more abrupt transitions from sharp to noticeably soft. It's like the focus falloff of master primes as opposed to S4s.

Edited by Chris Keth, 16 March 2009 - 01:04 AM.

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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 06:13 AM

The focus seems to drop of very, very fast so while you do have more depth of field you also have more abrupt transitions from sharp to noticeably soft.


This is pretty much what everyone I've heard talk about it is also saying.

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#19 K Borowski

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 07:16 AM

Well, OOF areas are going to reveal the shortcomings of whatever caemera is being used, like grain, noise, artifacts, etc. So all of the "ugliness" of intentionally making HD look noisy and bad are going to be accentuated when they become even slightly out of the focal plane.
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#20 Derek Lee

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 06:07 AM

So many people have focused on what they believe is wrong with Public Enemies that they've ignored any of the reasons Mann has chosen HD. We know Spinotti and Mann are not amateurs, but people act like they don't know the effects of a slow shutter speed. Seriously people.

Mann has chosen 2/3" sensors consistently for the depth of field. Before HD, Mann had used green screen to produce deep focus shots. He does this noticeably in Thief and in Heat. Additionally, Mann has has a penchant for night scenes. How does one achieve deep focus at night without having to light the entire LA or Miami skyline? Compare the night scenes in Last of the Mohicans with his HD films, and you'll see Mann was forced to shoot some day for night. I think given the choice, Mann would go back in time and shoot Last of the Mohicans with HD, pushing gain and low shutter speeds if he had to, as hard as it is to believe anyone would shoot 1700s period film digitally. Mann is not looking to make his films look like 35mm. He's been experimenting with this high grain, low light, deep focus look since Ali and Robbery Homicide Division.
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